Raila rejects bid to punish pro-Ruto ODM MPs
- Opposition boss urges leaders not to be distracted
- Former premier says Orange party has bigger issues to prioritise
ODM leader Raila Odinga has rejected a push by some MPs to punish party rebels campaigning for Deputy President William Ruto.
The Opposition chief believes such a move would be counter-productive. Raila also rejected proposals by some members to launch a presidential campaign to rival the DP’s forays across the country. He said partisan politics would split the country and defeat the purpose of the March 9 political truce with President Uhuru Kenyatta.
The Standard established that anxious members who convened for the party’s National Executive Committee cum-parliamentary group meeting in Mombasa yesterday raised pertinent questions about the state and future of the Building Bridges Initiative, Ruto’s campaigns and behaviour of some ODM MPs, especially from the Coast, who had rallied to Ruto’s side.
Some members demanded guarantees that Raila and ODM were not being taken for a ride by Jubilee or that it was losing its identity and ideological edge vis a vis the other parties in light of the handshake.
Yet others demanded some action against rebels like Msambweni MP Suleiman Dori, Malindi’s Aisha Jumwa and Benjamin Tayari (Kinango) and Badi Twalib of Jomvu, who have been campaigning for Ruto. But Raila said the party had other priorities.
“Raila told us that the likes of Dori are not issues that should distract us because there are more crucial pressing issues to discuss now like the state of the economy,” said an MP who attended the meeting.
The MP quoted Raila, saying the matter of disciplinary action against the rebels “is not an issue worth fighting for now because we have more important things to think about like electoral justice.”
A separate source also quoted Raila as saying that it was inadvisable to embark on presidential campaigns “just because Ruto has begun his”, adding that the party needed to strengthen itself first and ensure electoral reforms were implemented.
According to the ODM leader, partisan campaigns in response to the DP would amount to undue legitimisation of the Deputy President’s actions. Raila, apparently also argued that punishing errant MPs and embarking on presidential elections would polarise the country so soon after last year’s polls and defeat the purpose of the handshake.
Dori, Aisha, Owen Baya (Kilifi North) and Tayari did not attend the meeting. Reports indicate that Aisha said she was in Uganda while Tayari said he was “busy” with his constituents.
Before the meeting, there were murmurs among Coast legislators over Ruto’s backing. Likoni MP Mishi Mboko lashed out at the pro-Ruto legislators.
Jomvu MP Badi Twalib, Mombasa Senator Mohamed Faki and his Kwale counterpart Issa Boy, who joined Ruto in Kwale for Iftar, attended the party forum.
Sources also indicated that Mombasa Governor Ali Hassan Joho implored members to support Raila’s rapprochement with the President because the former Prime Minister was not acting out of ignorance or blindly.
“Joho told us that as a seasoned politician who understands Kenya’s politics, Raila knows when to act, when to retreat and when to move forward, and so we need to be patient,” said an MP.
The meeting attended by more than 60 MPs and several senators and two governors, was called to update members on the progress of the March 9 political truce.
The ODM leader also bluntly said there were some politicians who only embraced the March 9 “handshake” in the morning and opposed it in the afternoon.
“They embrace the war on corruption today, and display its proceeds tomorrow. They embrace national unity this week, and sow the seeds of discord the following week. ODM is not in that league,” said Raila.
“We remain in Opposition. But we have taken a principled position that what is good for Kenya is good for ODM. The war on corruption is good for Kenya. We are in it fully. Lifestyle audit on leaders is good for Kenya. We are in it fully,” said Raila.
Raila also accepted to be vetted and a lifestyle audit performed on him.
“Lifestyle audit on leaders is good for Kenya. Personally, I am ready for it. The vetting of procurement officers is good for Kenya. In fact, we pioneered it when we came to power in 2003 as NARC. We support it fully. And now, the corrupt are lost,” said Raila.
He cautioned ODM members against being distracted by succession politics and instead asked them to concentrate on building a brand new nation within this window of opportunity before it closes.
“Are you worried that some people have started campaigning in earnest? Worry not. A transition is underway in Kenya, as the handshake bears tangible results in war on corruption and unity of communities,” Raila added.
He told members that ODM would be the party to defeat in the 2022 General Election.
He said those against change were trying to cause confusion about the handshake and had instead embarked on early campaigns.